North Carolinians showed their love for Mount Airy, casting hundreds of votes to make the Mayberry inspiration the winner of the 2012 People’s Choice contest for “Great Main Street.” This award is part of the "Great Places in North Carolina" initiative sponsored by the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association to celebrate great communities throughout the state.
An expert panel also selected five other North Carolina main streets, from the mountains to the coast, for recognition. From dozens of nominations submitted, the panel named Asheville’s Lexington Avenue, Charlotte’s Tryon Street, Edenton’s Broad Street, and Hillsborough’s Churton Street as “Great Main Streets” and Gastonia’s Main Avenue as a “Great Place in the Making.”
“All of these ‘Great Main Streets’ are walkable, interesting, and alive,” said Fleming El-Amin, president of APA-NC. “Through this program we celebrate their vitality and the local partnerships that have made them a focal point for community life.”
Futher, “These places didn’t happen by accident,” said Ben Hitchings, president-elect of APA-NC and chair of the initiative. “We salute the collaborative efforts in each of these communities which resulted in places that people love and cherish.”
Later in May, a ceremony will be held in each community to recognize its local planning efforts. All of the communities will be featured on www.nc-apa.org/greatplaces. This year’s initiative is the first of what will be an annual event recognizing great communities in North Carolina.
The selected places are:
- In the mountain region: Asheville’s Lexington Avenue. Lexington Avenue—which was threatened to be replaced by a mall 30 years ago—has become the cultural heart of downtown and the main canvas of street art, local shopping and food, and local celebration.
- In the Piedmont: Hillsborough’s Churton Street and Charlotte’s Tryon Street. Churton Street is a true, small-town main street that has served as the community core of the town and county for over 250 years. Along Churton Street, the historic district hosts a variety of unique restaurants, artisan shops, historic law offices and more, providing visitors a destination that not only preserves the past but also represents a vital and prosperous present day. Tryon Street, the main street of the largest city in North Carolina, is a dynamic and vibrant place, emblematic of a major financial, cultural, entertainment, and educational center. “Tryon Street,” as Tom Hanchett of The Charlotte Observer once put it, “is Charlotte’s main drag, public face and front porch.”
- At the coast: Edenton’s Broad Street. While most small towns in North Carolina have experienced decline at some point in their history, Edenton's Broad Street has remained the center of the community since its incorporation in 1722. Broad Street serves as Edenton's cultural, social and commercial center of the community. Its beauty is found not only in the magnificent vista of Edenton Bay and the Albemarle Sound but also in its architecture and people.
Gastonia’s Main Avenue was recognized as a “Great Place in the Making.” Gastonia’s downtown is a story of revival and resurgence. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Main Avenue suffered from the outmigration of people and jobs to the suburbs. In recent years, implementation of a Downtown Streetscape and Public Realm Plan has brought residents and businesses back to Main Avenue.
Voters selected Mount Airy’s Main Street as the People’s Choice in an online contest in which 1,700 votes were cast. The expert panel that made the selections included the APA-NC chapter president (Fleming El- Amin), two Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners (George Chapman, Sue Schwartz), a Fellow from the American Society of Landscape Architects (Rodney Swink), and three representatives from two partner organizations (Professor David Owens from the UNC School of Government and Elizabeth Hudson, editor of Our State magazine).
The program was inspired by the “Great Places in America” program sponsored by the American Planning Association, which celebrates places across the country that are of exemplary character, quality, and planning. The North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association is an organization of 1,500 professional and citizen planners dedicated to preserving and creating great communities throughout North Carolina. For more information, visit www.nc-apa.org.